Recently the admins of several major sites where secondary sales of spirits occur made a joint decision to ban all products from 1 distillery. And before I continue, no I will not name or get you into any of these sites and yes, it is illegal for individuals without a license to sell or trade spirits. That said these sites exist and hundreds of transactions occur every day. The distillery was Bourbon 30 Craft Spirits.
Bourbon 30 Craft Spirits was started by Jeff Mattingly. They specialize in ‘the art of barrel finishing’ and ‘direct purchase of their barrel crafted spirits’. Pictures of their website show a small still on site, but I’m not sure how much they distill themselves. From sources, their primary business is a NDP, Non-Distilling Producer. They have sourced barrels from various producers and allow customers to procure a private barrel selection or even a blend of barrels as well as different ‘finishes’. There is nothing at all wrong with that concept. And this ban does nothing to stop his business from continuing their normal everyday operations.
Bourbon 30 first started bottling single barrels in 2014 but it was not until 2017 that the hype for them in the bourbon community began. Ed Bley, who was the spirits buyer for a large liquor store well known in KY, had developed a strong following for his barrel picks done for this store. He picked over 200 barrels for this store. Ed, who in my opinion has a great whiskey palate, worked with Bourbon 30 to create a marriage of whiskies from barrels procured from Bourbon 30. The first version was popular enough that a second version was also done in 2018. This time lines were out the door with waits to procure a bottle. It did not take long for the fresh flippers, those who buy to immediately resell, to start listing these bottles on secondary sites. I asked Ed on his thoughts on his picks being flipped on the secondary market.
He stated “When I began picking whiskey barrels it was a passion I can’t describe. I love the thrill of the chase. It wasn’t about profit, because I made very very little money working for a liquor store. It was about sharing a passion with my friends. Today I’m saddened. I’m sad that Jeff has to deal with this, I’m sad that as a secondary market that we’ve turned into a pack mentality as a group. What we don’t realize is that we have built up an industry together. Today we are working together to tear it down. Wade was nice enough to ask my opinion on my bottles not being able to be sold on the secondary market. My answer is I’m sad that we even have to ask that question, when my entire goal has been to share my passion with you. At some point some greedy individuals decided they deserved to make a lot of money off of the hard work of others. This is when it went from being a positive to a negative.”
These secondary sites allow a national reach for a product that was conceived to be sold in 1 local market. Demand from a national base exceeds local supply and the price adjust up to accommodate. Those in KY think they have struck gold; and they have – tater gold. I’m convinced taters have this fear about missing out. Any single barrel that starts to get some positive blog posts or mention in one of the gazillion podcasts out there can instantly start a tater frenzy.
I have tasted 3 whiskies from Bourbon 30 including one called Bald Monk. I don’t really do reviews of spirits on my site because I like what I like, and you like what you like. Sometimes those might align but often not. The 3 whiskies I tried from Bourbon 30 all were to me average whiskies. I would put them on the scale of standard products from big producers like Wild Turkey 101, Elijah Craig, Eagle Rare or Buffalo Trace. The 3 whiskies I tried from Bourbon 30 all retailed over $100, which already puts it in my category of a big stretch.
One of the nicest thing that has come from these secondary sites is some bottles are sold with proceeds going to charity. Some of these Bourbon 30 picks sold for charity with over $1000 raised per bottle. Unfortunately, I think this created a market impression that Bourbon 30 must have old Stitzel Weller stocks laying around. This lead to Bourbon 30 doing more limited release barrel picks that taters were lining up for overnight, primarily so they could immediately sell on the secondary markets. I have always believed a sale can only take place when you have both a willing buyer and a willing seller. However, one thing that can happen in any market is market manipulation. A seller ‘sells’ a bottle to his friend, but it is a fake sale to create a market established price. The Bourbon 30 bottles reached a point the admins of these groups feared this was happening, thus the ban. Based on my opinion of the Bourbon 30 products I’ve sampled, I think they are saving taters from themselves. If they ever opened this bottle, they would realize have foolish they were to pay the going rate.
Most of what MGPi have available to sell to NDP’s is very young whiskey or its older stocks are mostly light whiskey or whiskey that has been aged in used barrels. 2 recently released Bourbon 30 whiskies that led to the ban were ‘Butterface’ and ‘Everything Butterface’. Each of these were labeled Bourbon Whiskey. My source confirmed both contained a percentage of Light Whiskey. The Bald Monk that Bourbon 30 bottled says on the label that it is ‘Straight Blended Whiskey’. To be labeled this the product must contain a mixture only Straight Whiskies. It can’t have any finishing, nor oak staves added to the blend. It can’t have any light whiskey added to the mix. Bourbon 30 has violated federal labeling codes. I’m not sure if they did so intentionally or because lack of knowledge of the federal labeling code. I reached out to Jeff Mattingly for comment, but he declined to answer.
There are many rumors out there about the Frankenstein whiskies Bourbon 30 created in trash cans. I’m not here to comment on their process but will say consumers need to be able to trust producers when it comes to labels complying with federal code. Straight Blended Whiskey sounds much better than Blended Whiskey finished with added oak staves, but you must label whiskies truthfully.
I’ll let Ed finish with this statement “We look a lot better raising glasses than torches. Let’s get back to drinking and less selling please.”